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Receiving God's Love
By Patsy Clairmont
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2005 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGod Is Love
"God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them."
1 John 4:16 NLT
Clearing the Cobwebs
Is your hometown famous for anything-some landmark, special dish, or other claim to fame?
Have you ever tasted a Krispy Kreme(tm) doughnut? I'd never even heard of them before moving to the South. Where I grew up, we called such things "raised glazed" doughnuts-just one more deep-fried pastry with a hole in the middle. But wherever Krispy Kreme(tm) doughnuts are sold, they have been elevated to the status of a cultural icon. For one thing, they are everywhere. Every gas station and grocery store has a Krispy Kreme(tm) doughnut case, its clear acrylic shelves lined with row upon row of glistening doughnuts. What's more, these little gems have become an experiential must for out-of-town guests. Tourists are escorted to the nearest Krispy Kreme(tm) repository as a matter of course. But while all Krispy Kreme(tm) doughnuts are considered delicacies, nothing compares to the ones you get fresh from the source. You see, you can go to a Krispy Kreme(tm) doughnut shop, where they put a red neon light on to letpassersby know when they're frying. That way you can pop in and get a boxful of hot, fresh doughnuts. The glaze is still gooey and those doughnuts literally melt in your mouth. When that neon sign is lit, the line-up is amazing!
We're here together to study love. Now we can't really say that love is like doughnuts, but we can say that love is good. We see it everywhere. Love binds together parents and children, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, grandparents and grandchildren, and the hearts of friends. But nothing compares to love that comes right from the Source. God's love is unparalleled-an experiential must!
1. God has many names in Scripture. What does Paul call Him in 2 Corinthians 13:11?
2. Yet calling our Heavenly Father the "God of Love" doesn't quite go far enough. What startling revelation does John make in 1 John 4:8?
3. When someone is especially known for some trait, we'll often say that if you looked that trait up in the dictionary, that person's picture would be there. Needless to say, if we looked up "love" in the dictionary, God's picture would be there. What do each of these verses tell us about God's love?
4. The wording in some of these psalms is wonderful, especially as you look at them in the various translations. See if you can match the words in praise of God's love with the passage in which it can be found.
___ Psalm 31:21 (NCV) a. My God loves me, and He goes in front of me.
___ Psalm 36:5 (MSG) b. Oh, God, my Lord, Your love is so great.
___ Psalm 59:10 (MSG) c. God's love is the wonder of the world.
___ Psalm 69:16 (MSG) d. Your love is eternal.
___ Psalm 109:21 (NLT) e. I am the Lord, whose love is unfailing.
___ Psalm 138:8 (MSG) f. God's love is meteoric.
___ Jeremiah 9:24 (NLT) g. O Lord, Your unfailing love is wonderful.
Love is difficult to define. It is one of those intangibles-something we cannot touch, taste, see, hear, or smell. Still, we do try. The dictionary defines love as an intense emotional attachment. For many of us, love is just that-a feeling we have-and feelings can be very hard to put into words. It doesn't simplify matters to define love by saying that God is love, because we can't really define Him either. But think about it for a minute. God says, "I am God. I am love. These are My people and I love them. How have I behaved towards those I love? See, this is what love expects, how love reacts, what love is willing to do. This is love." It may not help us to slap a nice, tidy definition on love, but it does help us to understand what love is supposed to look like.
5. So if you had to describe God's love, which of these words would you find a way to work into your definition?
Great Inconsistent Short-lived Perpetual Unconditional Unwavering Fair-weather Complete Amazing Deep Temperamental Thriving Unchanging Easy-come, Easy-go Stingy Faithful Lavish Tyrannical Steady Abundant
6. What is Paul's prayer for believers, according to Ephesians 3:18?
7. God is all about love. His love for us is vast, immeasurable, huge. Do any of you find that a little intimidating? Does the very big-ness of God's love seem overwhelming at times? Consider what Jeremiah 31:3 says about the love of the Lord.
8. The bigness of God's love is indeed coupled with the gentleness of it. What does Hosea 11:4 say God has done?
This entire study focuses in on the love of God. We are highlighting this facet of His character and drawing encouragement from it. But we shouldn't rejoice over those passages of Scripture we love and ignore the ones we don't care to think on. As in every area of life, we must keep balance. In this case, we must always remember that while God is love, He is also just. Take a look at this verse. How are these people deceiving themselves?
You make God tired with all your talk. "How do we tire him out?" you ask. By saying, "God loves sinners and sin alike. God loves all." And also by saying, "Judgment? God's too nice to judge." -Malachi 2:17 MSG
Ponder & Pray
This week, stretch your mind and heart a bit as you try to comprehend the bigness of God's love for you. Do you have a view of the ocean where you live? God's love is much more vast and deep! Do you have mountains to admire? God's love is higher than they are! Do you live in wide open places-"big sky country"? God's love stretches beyond those horizons! Are you blessed with a view of the night sky, with all its stars? The love of God for you is higher even than these! Take comfort and confidence in the unchanging faithfulness of God's love. Give thanks for the gentleness of God's love. Pray that you will be able to receive God's love, for that is just the thing your heart needs today.
Trinkets to Treasure
At the close of every Women of Faith conference, women are asked to play a little game of pretend. Each conference guest is asked to imagine that a gift has been placed in her hands-one from each of the speakers-to serve as reminders of the different lessons shared. This study guide will carry on this tradition! At the close of each lesson, you will be presented with a small gift. Though imaginary, it will serve to remind you of the things you have learned. Think of it as a souvenir. Souvenirs are little trinkets we pick up on our journeys to remind us of where we have been. They keep us from forgetting the path we have traveled. Hide these little treasures in your heart, for as you ponder them, they will draw you closer to God.
Trinkets to Treasure
This week's trinket simply must be a doughnut-if you can manage a warm Krispy Kreme(tm) doughnut, all the better! The world is filled with love because God is love. God is the Source of love. We look to Him in order to understand what love is all about and what love should look like. Deep as it is, our love has its limits, but God's love is perfect, limitless, unparalleled. There's nothing else like it, and it is ours to receive.
Chapter TwoGod So Loved
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
John 3:16 NKJV
Clearing the Cobwebs
What's your favorite genre of literature-biography, historical romance, fantasy, mystery, cookbook, or what?
There are those who call the Bible the greatest love story ever told. Whenever I hear that, there's a little part of me that always responds by saying, "Huh?" I mean, come on. Genesis through Revelation hardly qualifies as a chick flick. We know what a love story is supposed to look like. There should be a beautiful woman, a handsome man, and some obstacle to their love. These are the inhabitants of cheap novels-elegantly coiffed ladies who swoon in the arms of muscle-bound men. These are the Prince Charmings and the damsels in distress. These are the makings of fairy tales, in which true love always triumphs. Love stories should feature romance, passion, fluttering hearts and flowery speeches. How can we possibly describe the Scriptures as such a tale?
But let's take another look at that Bible, gals. There may not be flowery speeches and fluttering hearts, but there is undying devotion, faithfulness, and sacrifice. You don't have to look very far to find the damsel in distress. The heroine of the story has been deceived, carried away and made a slave. She's sometimes called the Beloved or the Bride. What's more, she's cherished by the Hero, who's determined to free her from her captivity. His quest leads Him down a difficult path, but He's willing to go to any length, even to die for the one He loves. She must wait for Him, and He's promised to return for her. Someday soon He will come, riding on a white stallion, to carry her away to the home He has prepared for her. Then, they'll live happily ever after.
1. Awwww! Don't you love happy endings! But we'd better start back at the beginning. The Bible says God loved us before we even knew about Him, kind of like a secret admirer. Fill in the blanks of this familiar passage.
"But God ____________________ His own _________________ toward _______, in that while we were still _______________, Christ ____________ for us."-Romans 5:8 NKJV
2. Why would God do something like that? Why does Paul say He was willing to save us, according to Ephesians 2:4-7?
3. Let's take a look at two verses that will take your breath away. In 1 John 4:9, 10, what are the two things God did in order to show us His love?
4. How do we know that this sacrifice was a show of love? Scripture tells us so! What does Jesus tell us in John 15:13?
5. We know what real love is because Jesus modeled it for us. What does the beloved disciple tell us in 1 John 3:16?
It's a game we played when we were too small to talk. Sitting on a parent's knee, with our hands wrapped around their fingers, we were asked, "Guess how much I love you?" Then they'd lift up our hands and stretch out our arms as far as they could reach and say, "This much!" It was the kind of play intended to get giggles out of us, but it also reinforced for us the fact that we were loved with a love that was "so big."
6. Probably the most famous passage of Scripture is John 3:16. Let's freshen it up a bit by comparing some of the various translations of it.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (NKJV).
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (NLT).
God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die (CEV).
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life (AMP).
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life (MSG).
Have any of these versions helped you to see something new in this old favorite?
7. Jesus loved us enough to die for us. What did that love accomplish on our behalf, according to Revelation 1:5?
8. What else does God's love do for us, according to Colossians 1:13?
9. Love is wonderful in its own right. But God's love for us comes with so many ramifications-and good ones at that. What's just one more benefit of God's great love for us according to 2 Thessalonians 2:16?
Many prophecies describe Jesus as the coming Bridegroom and the church as the waiting bride. Bridal imagery is really quite popular! Take a look at these various Scriptures, each touching on a different facet of the bride's anticipation.
Isaiah 61:10 Isaiah 62:5
Jeremiah 2:32 Revelation 21:9
Ponder & Pray
You're a bride, awaiting her Prince, her Bridegroom's coming. Are you ready for His return? No bride wants to head down the aisle without every hair in place, every fold of satin smoothed, every detail attended to. She primps and preens and plucks. There are facials, manicures, pedicures. But what do we do to prepare for Jesus' return for us? Are we ready-relaxed and radiant-or are we up to our elbows in other matters-distracted, disheveled and disobedient? This week, consider the lengths Jesus was willing to go to secure your love. Consider the state you were in when He found you. And consider ways in which you can prepare your heart for Christ's coming.
Trinkets to Treasure
This week, we have celebrated the "so great" love of God for us. It wasn't hindered by our ignorance of it, our ungratefulness for it, or our inability to return it. God's love found us when we didn't deserve it, but it came when we needed it most. This week's trinket is a small key. It can serve to remind you that Jesus came to earth in order to set you free-to rescue you from the slavery of sin. His love unlocked the bars, unlocked our heart, and opened up a whole new world for each of us.
"You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away."
Isaiah 41:9 NKJV
Clearing the Cobwebs
Remember the days when recess meant choosing up sides for a game of kickball?
When were you usually chosen by one of the team captains-right away, somewhere in the middle, or at the very end?
When I was what is now called a "tweener," my Mom decided it was time to re-do my bedroom. Now I had been in this room since I was just two years old, and I loved it. The carpet was deep purple shag and the wallpaper was scattered with big pink daisies and purple tulips. It was unique. It was perfect. The re-do started with carpet-a sculpted mauve. But best of all was the fact that I was going to get to choose my own wallpaper. I was thrilled. We brought home free snippets of different papers. We borrowed oversized sample books. We held up this piece and that piece against the wall to see how it would look. Every night, visions of cabbage roses and sweeping lilacs and violets and pansies danced through my head. But then I came home from school one day to find double rolls of wallpaper piled on the kitchen table. Mom had gotten tired of waiting for me to decide, and had found a bargain. The paper was white moiré sprigged with clusters of what were meant to be wildflowers but looked a whole lot like weeds to me. I was horrified. I hated it. It went up anyhow. It never occurred to me to accept my mother's choice with grace or gratefulness. I was enormously disappointed because I had wanted to choose for myself.
Being able to choose for ourselves is important to us. But even more vital is being chosen.
Excerpted from Receiving God's Love by Patsy Clairmont Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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